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Urgent: Four Days, Four Phone Calls to Protect the Susquehanna

March 9, 2012

Please mark your calendars for March 15th, when the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) meets in Harrisburg to vote on dozens of water withdrawals (many billions of gallons over four years) for fracking. The written comment period is closed, but it is now time to call the MD, PA, and NY governors, and the Obama Administration, to urge “no new permits” for water withdrawals for fracking in the Susquehanna Basin. SRBC should not even consider one permit without a cumulative impact study, let alone approving hundreds of permits for billions of gallons of consumptive water use for fracking.

If you would like to attend the meeting in Harrisburg, here are the specifics:

What: SRBC Meeting
When: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 8:30 AM
Where: North Office Building, Hearing Room 1 (Ground Level), North Street (at Commonwealth Avenue) Harrisburg, Pa. 17120
POW’s Greater Philly Trainpool / Carpool Coordinator: Sarah Lowry, sarahmlowry@gmail.com, (201) 214-2580

If you can’t make it Harrisburg on Thursday, please call the commissioners in advance:

What: Call all four voting members of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) by Wednesday, March 14th at 5 pm!

The Ask: Urge the governors of MD, PA, NY and President Obama, through his Army Corps of Engineers Commissioner, to vote NO on any further permits to withdraw water for fracking in the Susquehanna River Basin. We stand united for a moratorium on water withdrawals.

Why: The SRBC plans to approve many billions of gallons of water withdrawals for fracking at their March 15th meeting, further accelerating the already rapid pace of high-volume slickwater hydraulic fracturing in the watershed. Surface and drinking water already contaminated by methane and toxic chemicals in multiple locations in the watershed has not been remediated (because it can’t be remediated). SRBC has not undertaken any cumulative impact study of fracking’s life cycle impacts on the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay, which is already in critical condition and can’t take any more abuse. Ninety percent of the water in the northern Chesapeake Bay comes from the Susquehanna River. Animal and human health is at risk, and the State of Pennsylvania doesn’t even have a mechanism for residents to report health impacts from fracking! When families’ water supplies are destroyed, they cannot even take care of their children and animals safely, let alone sell their homes. Finally, when the industry does settle a lawsuit and pay medical bills or buy devastated properties, they force a legal gag order of silence. An industry with this many toxic secrets to keep must be prevented from doing any further damage. The SRBC holds the reins for the Susquehanna River Basin, a gigantic and irreplaceable watershed. Call the Commissioners now.

Call-in Days: Please call any and all when you are able. To add zest, an alliance of grassroots groups has designated days:

MONDAY: MD Gov. O’Malley.  TUESDAY: President Obama and Army Corps of Engineers: WEDNESDAY: NY Gov. Cuomo.

PA Gov. Corbett: WHENEVER.

The Phone Numbers:  

Each Commissioner votes according to the Governor’s preference. For extra influence call both the Governor and the Commissioner. Please be respectful, patient, and extremely clear in delivering your message!!! You may have to explain a bit if you are one of the early callers. Thanks!

1. Maryland Governor Martin J. O’Malley (410) 974-3901 or (800) 811-8336

SRBC Commissioner: Dr. Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment (410) 537-3084

Email: governor@gov.state.md.us

In writing: Governor O’Malley, State House, 100 State Circle, Annapolis,MD 21401 – 1925

2. New York Governor Cuomo (518) 474-8390 (9 – 5 a live person answers) or you may have better luck with (212) 681-4580

3. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (717) 787-2500  (8:30 AM – 6 PM live person answers)

4. President Obama (202) 456-1111 

Obama’s SRBC Commissioner: Colonel Christopher Larsen, Commander, North Atlantic Division,

US Army Corps of Engineers: (347) 370-4501

Amy Guise (who is apparently handling the vote for Colonel Larsen), Chief Civil Project Branch, Planning Division: (410) 962-6138

Once you’ve called, please consider following up with an email or snail mail letter for greater impact, and encourage groups you are part of to call and write as well. Please consider educating each Commissioner about specific instances of water contamination associated with hydraulic fracturing, and consider telling them about the terrible impacts on animal and human health so far. They truly may not know.

A fraction of the water contamination cases within the Susquehanna River Basin so far includes the 17 families whose drinking water was contaminated by Chesapeake Energy in Bradford County; the families evacuated due to the Chesapeake blowout last April; at least 19 families with contaminated water in Dimock, PA; another 13 families in Susquehanna County including Susan Breese; and Sherry Vargson, whose experience was summarized in the current Rolling Stone Magazine this way:

“I discovered I could light my water on fire,” she says. “And I still can.” To demonstrate, she walks over to the faucet in her kitchen, lights a match and turns on the faucet. Whoosh! A flame shoots out like a blowtorch.

Vargson stopped drinking the water after she discovered the methane – but tests showed that her water also contained elevated levels of toxic chemicals like radium, manganese and strontium. Chesapeake agreed to supply Vargson with fresh drinking water, delivered to her door in five-gallon jugs once a month, but it denies any responsibility for the elevated methane levels. Tom Darrah, a Duke geologist who has examined Vargson’s well for a new study, finds that difficult to square with the facts. “Anyone who has seen the data I have and thinks this much methane in her well is from natural sources has their head in the sand,” he says.

If you’d like to read expert comments and share them with the Governors, President Obama, and their respective Commissioners, here is a link to expert arguments including a stream ecologist and hydrogeologist Paul Rubin. Delaware Riverkeeper Network.submitted these comments to New York regarding their statewide Environmental Impact Study; they are equally and directly relevant to the SRBC process, since SRBC has similarly not performed any cumulative study of the impact from these withdrawals, which are permanently lost due to consumptive use (injected underground after being poisoned with chemicals, most of the water stays underground and what returns to the surface is “flowback,” even more poisoned with heavy metals, radioactive materials, and volatile organic chemicals / hydrocarbons, as well as toxic levels of salt and the chemical additives used in fracking).

In addition to a broad network of smaller grassroots organizations, including Protecting Our Waters, now calling for a halt on any further permits for water withdrawals in the beautiful, vital and critically endangered Susquehanna River Basin, larger and longer-established organizations are weighing in strongly at this time:

Sierra Club, Earthworks, and Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper collectively concluded in February:

  • Given  all  the  detrimental  impacts  of  gas  development  on  the  environment  and   communities, Susquehanna River Basin Commissioners  need  to  take  action  and  stop  additional  permitting  and   other  actions  that  accelerate  shale  gas  development.
  • It  is  inappropriate  for  SRBC  to  authorize  more  water  withdrawal  permits  and   implement  new  shale  gas  regulations  without  first  performing  the  scientific  studies   necessary  to  ensure  that  decisionmaking  is  comprehensive  and  informed.
  • Read the full Sierra Club, Earthworks and Riverkeeper statement here
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4 Comments
  1. March 12, 2012 4:24 pm

    MONDAY—–> MD Governor Martin O’Malley
    (410) 974-3901 or 1-800-811-8336

    He could very well be the “Jack Markell” of the SRBC, meaning, he MAY be the weak link that we can convince to rethink this issue and throw a monkey-wrench into the SRBC’s unquestioned consensus!

    (Just in case they ask, please have a MD zip code handy, although they did not ask in my experience.)

    **ALSO**: call the SRBC Commissioner: Dr. Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment (410) 537-3084

    Suggested script:
    “Hello. I am concerned about the Susquehanna River Basin Commission vote that is going to take place on March 15th in Harrisburg, PA. It has come to my attention that the Commission is slated to vote to approve over 60 permits for withdrawals from the Basin for the purposes of risky and toxic shale gas drilling taking place in PA. Mayor Carolyn Sorge of Betterton sent a letter of comment to the SRBC voicing her opposition to the PERMANENT removal and CONSUMPTIVE use of these public waters as “a death warrant” for both the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. She pointed out that the endangered Susquehanna bears drilling-related contamination into the Bay which unfairly impacts the livelihoods, safety, and drinking water of MD residents. She insisted that issues of environmental integrity and public health demand a cumulative environmental impact study. On the grounds that fracking operations in PA adversely impact MD citizens, I URGE Governor O’Malley to have his representative vote NO to any further water withdrawal permits for Marcellus shale drilling until such a study has been completed and the results evaluated. The water resources of the Basin must not be granted for activities that disproportionately injure the citizens of MD for the purposes of corporate profit agendas in PA. Governor O’Malley needs to defend the interests of MD citizens at the SRBC vote!”

    **OR**

    Shorter version: “Vote NO to water withdrawals for shale gas drilling at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission meeting on Thursday. MD is in the position to suffer disproportionately from the rush to drill in PA…all the contamination flows down and hurts the Chesapeake Bay area. The Susquehanna is the source of 1/2 the fresh water which enters the bay. PA fracking is definitely NOT good for MD!”

    BONUS POINTS–> e-mail him: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/

    (Copy and paste the phone script into the message area! :-)

  2. March 12, 2012 4:24 pm

    TUESDAY—–> President Obama (202) 456-1111
    Army Corps of Engineers representative Amy Guise, Chief Civil Project Branch, Planning Division
    (410) 962-6138

    White House comment line script:
    “I am concerned about the March 15th meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission where they will vote on over 60 water withdrawal permits for PA fracking operations. Until the SRBC studies the cumulative environmental impacts of the permanent removal of billions of gallons of water from the Basin which feeds the Chesapeake Bay, and considers the detrimental effects of fracking-related contamination of the Susquehanna on downstream communities in the SRBC member state of MD, Obama should instruct his Army Corps of Engineers representative to vote NO on any further water withdrawals for Marcellus shale gas drilling.”

    BONUS POINTS–> e-mail him: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

    (Copy and paste the phone script into the message area! :-)

    Army Corps of Engineers (both phone numbers) script:
    “I am concerned about the Susquehanna River Basin Commission vote coming up this Thursday in Harrisburg where over 60 applications for permits for water withdrawals for shale gas fracking activities may potentially be approved. The SRBC has been utterly negligent in its mandate to minimize pollution throughout the Basin with respect to fracking. The SRBC operates on the basis of “joint authority,” which requires policy coordination and uniform standards among member states regarding water usage and management. Nonetheless, the rush to drill in one member state, Pennsylvania, is controlling the SRBC’s decisions even though the other two members, Maryland and New York, have not yet decided to permit drilling. The SRBC must uphold its mandate to have a comprehensive plan in place for water usage and management by studying the cumulative environmental impacts of Marcellus shale development, and must not issue ANY more permits for water withdrawals until New York and Maryland have completed their studies of fracking impacts and have adopted related regulations. I demand on behalf of the citizens of the Basin that the Army Corps of Engineers vote NO on Thursday.”

    BONUS POINTS–> e-mail her: amy.m.guise@usace.army.mil
    (Copy and paste the phone script into the body of your e-mail! :-)

  3. March 12, 2012 4:25 pm

    On Thursday morning, March 15th at 8AM at the Capitol Building in Harrisburg, PA, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission will convene for a public vote on over 60 permit applications for water withdrawals (amounting to mega-millions of gallons over a four-year period for which they are charged $.005/gallon), the vast majority of which are water withdrawals for the purposes of toxic shale gas drilling. ( Here are all the meeting details: http://www.srbc.net/about/meetings/MeetingNotices/_CMtgAnnouncement03-15-12.pdf
    )
    Based on the fact that this water withdrawn from the Basin will never be returned to the water cycle, let alone to the Basin itself (it will be either trapped in the deep shale formation forever, or shipped off to deep injection wells in other states since there is no existing treatment method which removes radioactivity from the flowback waste water), this is absolutely repugnant and unacceptable. [If you are interested in reading the best, most scientific and scholarly comment to the SRBC in this matter, please click here: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10151326725600436 ] Monday through Wednesday, we wage a call-in (and e-mail) campaign to the three decision-makers we think we can best influence.

    Consensus is that PA Governor Tom Corbett is a lost cause, but feel free to urge him to have his representative vote NO by calling (717) 787-2500, or e-mail him here: http://www.governor.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/contact/2998/e-mail_the_governor%27s_office/465341

    Alternately, feel free to try to influence his right hand man in his Philadelphia office, Adam Gattuso, whose e-mail address is agattuso@state.pa.us

    *************************************************************

    MONDAY—–> MD Governor Martin O’Malley
    (410) 974-3901 or 1-800-811-8336

    He could very well be the “Jack Markell” of the SRBC, meaning, he MAY be the weak link that we can convince to rethink this issue and throw a monkey-wrench into the SRBC’s unquestioned consensus!

    (Just in case they ask, please have a MD zip code handy, although they did not ask in my experience.)

    **ALSO**: call the SRBC Commissioner: Dr. Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment (410) 537-3084

    Suggested script:
    “Hello. I am concerned about the Susquehanna River Basin Commission vote that is going to take place on March 15th in Harrisburg, PA. It has come to my attention that the Commission is slated to vote to approve over 60 permits for withdrawals from the Basin for the purposes of risky and toxic shale gas drilling taking place in PA. Mayor Carolyn Sorge of Betterton sent a letter of comment to the SRBC voicing her opposition to the PERMANENT removal and CONSUMPTIVE use of these public waters as “a death warrant” for both the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. She pointed out that the endangered Susquehanna bears drilling-related contamination into the Bay which unfairly impacts the livelihoods, safety, and drinking water of MD residents. She insisted that issues of environmental integrity and public health demand a cumulative environmental impact study. On the grounds that fracking operations in PA adversely impact MD citizens, I URGE Governor O’Malley to have his representative vote NO to any further water withdrawal permits for Marcellus shale drilling until such a study has been completed and the results evaluated. The water resources of the Basin must not be granted for activities that disproportionately injure the citizens of MD for the purposes of corporate profit agendas in PA. Governor O’Malley needs to defend the interests of MD citizens at the SRBC vote!”

    **OR**

    Shorter version: “Vote NO to water withdrawals for shale gas drilling at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission meeting on Thursday. MD is in the position to suffer disproportionately from the rush to drill in PA…all the contamination flows down and hurts the Chesapeake Bay area. The Susquehanna is the source of 1/2 the fresh water which enters the bay. PA fracking is definitely NOT good for MD!”

    BONUS POINTS–> e-mail him: http://www.governor.maryland.gov/mail/

    (Copy and paste the phone script into the message area! :-)

    ***********************************************************

    TUESDAY—–> President Obama (202) 456-1111
    Army Corps of Engineers representative Amy Guise, Chief Civil Project Branch, Planning Division
    (410) 962-6138

    White House comment line script:
    “I am concerned about the March 15th meeting of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission where they will vote on over 60 water withdrawal permits for PA fracking operations. Until the SRBC studies the cumulative environmental impacts of the permanent removal of billions of gallons of water from the Basin which feeds the Chesapeake Bay, and considers the detrimental effects of fracking-related contamination of the Susquehanna on downstream communities in the SRBC member state of MD, Obama should instruct his Army Corps of Engineers representative to vote NO on any further water withdrawals for Marcellus shale gas drilling.”

    BONUS POINTS–> e-mail him: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

    (Copy and paste the phone script into the message area! :-)

    Army Corps of Engineers (both phone numbers) script:
    “I am concerned about the Susquehanna River Basin Commission vote coming up this Thursday in Harrisburg where over 60 applications for permits for water withdrawals for shale gas fracking activities may potentially be approved. The SRBC has been utterly negligent in its mandate to minimize pollution throughout the Basin with respect to fracking. The SRBC operates on the basis of “joint authority,” which requires policy coordination and uniform standards among member states regarding water usage and management. Nonetheless, the rush to drill in one member state, Pennsylvania, is controlling the SRBC’s decisions even though the other two members, Maryland and New York, have not yet decided to permit drilling. The SRBC must uphold its mandate to have a comprehensive plan in place for water usage and management by studying the cumulative environmental impacts of Marcellus shale development, and must not issue ANY more permits for water withdrawals until New York and Maryland have completed their studies of fracking impacts and have adopted related regulations. I demand on behalf of the citizens of the Basin that the Army Corps of Engineers vote NO on Thursday.”

    BONUS POINTS–> e-mail her: amy.m.guise@usace.army.mil
    (Copy and paste the phone script into the body of your e-mail! :-)

    ***********************************************************

    WEDNESDAY—–> NY Governor Andrew Cuomo
    (212) 312-1420 and/or (518) 455-3791

    **IMPORTANT**!!!!!! It is imperative that you are prepared to give a New York zip code when you call. This page gives excellent options for several Binghamton-area zip codes, and further down the page are links to the zip codes of other nearby NY towns which are good choices:

    http://www.zip-codes.com/city/NY-BINGHAMTON.asp

    Suggested script:
    “I am concerned about the Susquehanna River Basin Commission vote coming up tomorrow [Thursday] in Harrisburg where over 60 applications for permits for water withdrawals enabling shale gas fracking activities may potentially be approved. Considering the fact that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has a lawsuit pending against the Delaware River Basin Commission to prevent them from allowing shale gas drilling to commence without cumulative environmental impact studies being conducted; and considering that the SRBC has undertaken exactly ZERO studies of any kind; and considering that the issue of regulating or even ALLOWING fracking is completely undecided in New York, I expect consistency from Governor Cuomo, and insist that he vote NO to any further water withdrawals in order to slow Marcellus shale drilling. The SRBC should not make it easier for gas companies to get permits or promote drilling on account of growing evidence of pollution produced by the industry. The endangered Susquehanna River pours drilling-related contamination into the Bay which unfairly impacts the livelihoods, safety, and drinking water of MD residents. The SRBC must uphold its mandate to have a comprehensive plan in place for water usage and management by studying the cumulative environmental impacts of Marcellus shale development, and must not issue ANY more permits for water withdrawals until New York and Maryland have completed their studies of fracking impacts and have adopted related regulations. I demand on behalf of the citizens of the Basin that Governor Cuomo show leadership by having his SRBC representative vote NO on Thursday.”

    BONUS POINTS–> e-mail him: http://www.governor.ny.gov/contact/GovernorContactForm.php

    (Copy and paste the phone script into the message area! :-)

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